for the first time ever, said the University of Maryland Medical Center, in a move they say could make organ delivery safer and more affordable.
The drone was custom-built to monitor the organ in the air in real time as it was delivered on April 19 and send updates to personnel handling the transplant, the hospital said in a statement released Friday.
The recipient of the delivered kidney was a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who spent eight years on dialysis before undergoing the transplant, said the hospital.
As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation,” said Joseph Scalea, project lead and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant at UMMC, in a statement.
Prior to the initial delivery, researchers tested out the drone by delivering items such as saline, blood tubes, and a healthy but non-viable human kidney.
Doctors believe the use of drones to make organ deliveries could make them more widely available than traditional methods of transporting organs.
“There remains a woeful disparity between the number of recipients on the organ transplant waiting list and the total number of transplantable organs,” said Scalea in a statement. “This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation.”
The use of drones has expanded widely in recent years, as several industries incorporate the technology into their services.
The FAA recently certified Google’s Wing service for drone delivery, while Amazon successfully delivered its first package by drone in 2016.